A knee meniscus tear is usually the cause of improper movement during flexion and rotation of the knee joint. Common underlying causes of a knee meniscus tear include inflammation and prior degeneration of the joint surfaces. The menisci serve as a shock absorber and aid in reducing damaging friction in the knee joint. People who have low integrity joint stabilization and degeneration in the knee are more prone to arthritis in the future. The lateral portion of the menisci is different from the inner portion based on its connection to the blood supply. The inner portion of the menisci is not connected to the human blood supply and is not able to heal itself. Injuries on the lateral section of the menisci can use the blood supply to heal tears and may prevent future degradation and arthritis. Major knee meniscus tears may require surgery. People complaining of constant knee pain should see a physician as soon as possible.
Major Functions of the menisci
- Weight distribution in the knee
- Aids in stability
- Shock absorption
- increase proprioception
Symptoms of a knee meniscus tear
- Pain centralized in the knee joint
- Increased localized swelling around the knee
- Elevated sensitivity and tenderness
- Pain during cold weather
- Random or constant popping in the knee
- Limited flexibility, stabilization, and decreased range of motion
Common causes of a knee meniscus tear
- Athletic or sports injury during flexion and rotation
- Sudden impact such as falling or being hit
- Improper motion during exercise
- Muscle atrophy and poor intrinsic stability of the joint
- Prior ligament tears and or surgery
Post Knee meniscus tear surgery
After surgery clients will generally see a physical therapist and engage in a recovery and strength re-development program. Rehab will emphasize strengthening of the hips, gluts, quads and adductors. In addition to strength training clients will also engage in flexibility and stability exercises to increase joint proprioception and muscle fiber recruitment. Low impact exercises are optimal for rehabilitation of the knee and high impact activities should be avoided at all times. Generally NSAIDS and ice are prescribed to decrease swelling and promote faster recovery. It is very important to reduce overall swelling early in the rehabilitation phase to improve muscle fiber recruitment and knee strength.
Common beneficial exercises
- Closed chain activities such as terminal knee extension and controlled squats
- Stationary bike cardio
- Lateral step ups and multi-plane controlled balance exercises
- Mini Stability ball wall squats
- Low weight eccentric knee extension
- Active isolated stretching
- Leg press
- PNF pattern exercises
- Walking backwards performed with a steep incline
Knee Meniscus tear recovery tip – Your physical therapist and post rehab coach should provide a strategic program to return your knee back to optimal function. Information and exercises described above should not be performed without the consent of your doctor. It is important to gradually increase exercise weight and difficulty but should only be done according to your PT’s recovery program.
Products that may help a knee meniscus tear include
- Liquid collagen
- Manganese ascorbate
- Hyaluronic acid
What to expect after surgery
Post knee meniscus tear surgery a patient can expect to have moderate to high pain. Generally surgeons will prescribe pain killers to reduce the amount of post surgical discomfort. Recovery times and pain vary with each individual patient. Four to six weeks is common for pain but reduces significantly as the week’s progress. Your knee doctor will provide you with a brace specifically designed for a knee meniscus tear surgery. Motion in the knee is slowly returned and a recovery program will begin to improve range of motion, decrease swelling, and eventually gain maximal knee strength and stability. Patients can expect to return back to average low weight bearing activities in 6-8 weeks depending on rehab dedication and individual healing times.
Non surgical knee meniscus tear information
Many people suffering from a knee meniscus tear decide not to get orthopedic surgery. In most cases knee strengthening exercises can be done to speed up the recovery process. In some cases natural healing and a good physical therapy program can bring the meniscus back to optimal function. In addition to natural healing or surgery using the aid of a meniscus tear knee brace can greatly aid in recovery and support. It is recommended to get the advice of your physician prior to making any decisions. In some cases your doctor may recommend surgery due to extensive damage in the knee joint. Arthritis may develop in the future if the knee meniscus tear is not properly addressed. Non surgical knee meniscus repair may include most of the exercises listed above. It is important to address the knee swelling and begin low impact low weight exercises to regain maximal knee function and optimal ROM. The stationary bike is a wonderful therapy tool and will reduce recovery time if used properly. Dedication is the key to fast recovery. Follow the guidelines set forth by your doctor and put all your effort into regaining proper knee function; it will be worth it I promise.
knee meniscus tears result when the medial or lateral condyle of the femur is driven into the cartilage on the tibial plateau. This results in a knee meniscus tear. The cartilage is essential to maintaining the low friction, shock absorption and stability in the knee. The loss of cartilage may result in arthritic changes in the joint due to the increase in friction and loss of shock absorption. The loss of cartilage will allow bony segments to contact one another. In response to the bone on bone contact the body will produce bone spurs. The increase in bony production may result in deformities in the knee and also chronic inflammation. Our knee pain page will provide you with more information regarding knee meniscus tears.